When Dennis Buzukja traveled with teammate Aljamain Sterling to Abu Dhabi ahead of Sterling’s UFC 280 title bout, he immediately caught a glimpse into the future. Buzukja got a firsthand look at Etihad Arena, the United Arab Emirates, and championship level fighting, further igniting his desire to follow in the footsteps of his esteemed teammates.
Buzukja was originally slated for an early March bout in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but when offered the chance to take a fight of his own at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, he jumped at the opportunity.
“When we were there, I fell in love with the place,” Buzukja said. “I instantly knew it was a place where I’d want to fight. So, once this came up, it felt like I manifested it.”
Buzukja, a proud Albanian, brings a crew of passionate Albanian supporters to each of his fights, and is taking this as an opportunity to bring honor to his heritage from across the world.
“I feel like a modern-day Alexander. I feel like a conqueror,” Buzukja said. “It’s kind of like a war-like mentality, but that’s what gets me going. I feel like the chosen one to represent the country and I can’t let these people down.”
At the top of the regional ranks for the last several years, Buzukja credits his Serra-Longo teammates for rapidly developing his game to the point where he touts a 9-2 record, as well as two Dana White’s Contender Series appearances, at just 25 years of age.
“Aljo and Merab (Dvalishvili) have played a massive, massive role in my grappling. They help me understand top control, weight distribution, and all that stuff,” Buzukja said. “Then Al’s really helped me out with my striking, and Ray (Longo) just puts it all together.
In the midst of his current five-fight win streak, Buzukja took home a decision victory on the Contender Series in July of 2022, but was not able to secure a contract.
“I think that, at the end of the day, it’s on me to get a finish, and I can never leave it to external factors. If I would have gotten a finish, I’m sure I would have received a contract, so it’s all on me.” Buzukja said.
While not getting a contract following a Contender series win would have crushed the spirit of many other fighters, Buzukja allowed the experience to shift his mentality. A more aggressive mentality that he plans on bringing into his fight with Mark Gregory Valerio at UAE Warriors 36.
“I can’t let this fight go the distance; either he’s knocking me out or I’m knocking him out,” Buzukja said. “I’m going back to my roots and I’m gonna put this guy’s lights out. I’m gonna throw spinning stuff, I’m throwing with bad intentions, I’m looking to make the crowd go crazy, and I’m coming for a first-round knockout.”